Congressional negotiators have reached a tentative agreement to prevent another government shutdown, that could begin as soon as midnight Friday. The deal includes nearly $1.4 billion to build 55 miles of new border barriers, far less than the $5.7 billion requested by President Trump. As part of the deal, Democrats dropped a demand to cap the number of immigrant prisoners who are already living in the U.S. detained by ICE at 16,500 per day. The deal still needs the backing of the House, Senate and Trump.
The news came as Trump and former Democratic candidate for Senate, Beto O’Rourke, held dueling rallies in the border town of El Paso. At his rally, Trump promised his supporters he would build a wall, while mocking the size of O’Rourke’s rally. At the event, a Trump supporter wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat attacked a BBC cameraman. BBC reporter Eleanor Montague tweeted, “The crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy against the media by Trump and other speakers all night.”
Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke, who many believe will launch a 2020 presidential bid, blasted the border wall, saying barriers lead to more suffering and death.
Beto O’Rourke: “In the last 10 years, more than 4,000 children, women and men have died trying to come to this country to work jobs that no one will take, to be with a family member, to flee horrific brutality and violence and death in their home countries.”
Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar issued an apology Monday after her tweet calling out the Israeli lobby group AIPAC’s relationship with lawmakers went viral and drew swift rebuke in Washington, including from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
On Sunday, Omar retweeted a post by journalist Glenn Greenwald that read, in part: “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans,” adding the line: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” An editor from The Forward newspaper then tweeted, “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel … Bad form, Congresswoman. That’s the second anti-Semitic trope you’ve tweeted,” to which Omar then tweeted in response, ”AIPAC!”
Omar’s apology Monday read, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.” Omar went on to offer an “unequivocal apology” and added, “At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be Aipac, the N.R.A. or the fossil fuel industry.”
In science news, a shocking new report warns the rapid decline of the world’s insect population could lead to the “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems.” The report, published in the journal Biological Conservation, estimates 40 percent of insect species are in decline and could go extinct in the next few decades. Insects are vital for their role in pollinating plants, purifying the soil and water, recycling natural waste and protecting crops from pests. The report says that unsustainable, pesticide-dependent industrial agriculture is the main cause of the die-off, but the report also cites warming temperatures as a factor.
In Yemen, the U.N. is warning that grain supplies that could feed up to 3.5 million people for one month are at risk of rotting, due to the ongoing war. The flour mills, located in the port city of Hodeidah, store grain from the World Food Program and have been inaccessible since September. Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with 10 million people on the brink of famine.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have killed at least 86 civilians in eastern Syria since Monday. The attacks struck a region that is believed to be the last stronghold of the Islamic State. An estimated 19 fighters from both Syrian government forces and ISIS were killed in one of the airstrikes.
In Mexico, veteran radio host Jesús Eugenio Ramos Rodríguez was shot and killed Saturday, making him the second Mexican journalist to be murdered this year. Authorities in the state of Tabasco are investigating the murder, and the government has repeated its commitment to strengthen protections for journalists. This is Alfredo Naranjo, a colleague of the murdered reporter, speaking at his funeral.
Alfredo Naranjo: “This is not a bullet at Jesús Ramos, but at freedom of expression. What is happening is at the heart of Mexico.”
In more news from Mexico, prominent indigenous LGBT activist Óscar Cazorla was found dead over the weekend in what appears to be a violent attack in the southern state of Oaxaca. Cazorla was an advocate for muxe culture—a non-binary gender identity stemming from indigenous Zapotec culture.
In Cameroon, at least four people died when a hospital was set on fire Monday in the southwestern town of Kumba. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government has blamed previous similar attacks on English-speaking separatists. The deadly attack came as a reported 70 people were killed in fighting over the past week in the southwest of the country.
Back in the U.S., Honduran and Nepali immigrants filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in San Francisco over its efforts to end the immigration program known as TPS, or temporary protected status. Lawyers representing around 100,000 people from both communities argue that the move is motivated by racism. In a similar lawsuit affecting TPS holders from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s plan in October, citing “discriminatory” motivation.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting American Media, Inc., which owns the National Enquirer, asked the Justice Department last year whether it should register as a foreign agent because it published a magazine that promoted Saudi interests and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The revelation came as a recent blog post by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos placed renewed scrutiny on the media company’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. In his post, Bezos accused the National Enquirer of “extortion and blackmail” over leaked text messages from his then-extramarital relationship. Bezos suggested that critical coverage of Saudi Arabia by The Washington Post—which he owns—following the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi “seem[ed] to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.”
Faculty members at Wright State University in Ohio ended a 20-day strike Sunday evening—the longest such labor action in the state’s history and the second longest at a public college anywhere in the U.S. The strike started following the imposition of a contract by the school that educators say worsened working conditions and decreased benefits. This is Crystal B. Lake, a faculty member from Wright State, speaking to Democracy Now!
Crystal B. Lake: “Fifteen thousand students here, they are from low-income families. They’re first-generation college students. They’re veterans. They’re differently abled. They’re nontraditional students. Most of us at Wright State are here in the first place because we’re deeply committed to our university’s mission of ensuring that a wide range of students can benefit from advantages conferred by an affordable and high-quality college degree.”
We’ll have more on this story after headlines with Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors.
And journalists at Connecticut’s Hartford Courant—the country’s oldest continuously published newspaper—have announced plans to unionize. Staffers say the paper, which is owned by Tribune Publishing, has suffered from cuts to the newsroom and overall staff, and stagnant wages. In a statement, Courant journalists wrote, “Declining revenues and corporate self-interest—marked by decisions without regard for, or knowledge of, who we are and what we do—only translate to deepening cuts to our resources and standards.”